Does every new mom freak out at the thought of leaving their baby and going back to work?
Because Stage 3C cancer was found at the time of my C-section, my planned 12-week maternity leave extended from several weeks to several months. And as much as cancer treatment sucks total ass, I have to say I've enjoyed beyond measure this extra time I've been able to spend with my daughter.
I've worked in family law for more than 20 years, and have loved (almost) every minute of it. As you can imagine, there was never a boring day at the office in this line of work. And this was no 9 to 5 job. I would typically bill 50-60 hours per week, sometimes 80+ when we were preparing for a trial, depositions, or mediation.
Many of my clients had my cell number, and I prided myself on always being available on nights and weekends (when crises tend to happen in divorce cases). Even on my honeymoon I stayed connected to the office. Until the baby came, and with her the cancer diagnosis, I don't know that I ever had a true "break" from the office in 20 years.
Pre-baby, I planned to take 8-12 weeks of maternity leave, and also assured everyone that I'd stay connected to the office and up to speed on all cases in my absence. And this was fully my intention.
Oh, how things have changed.
I wouldn't recommend cancer to anyone, but I will say that one of the unexpected bonuses of the disease has been this additional time with my daughter. I've been able to be there with her every day for the first eight months of her life, something I never dreamed I'd be able to do. I've been able to witness so many milestones first-hand. Her holding up her head, her rolling over, her sitting up, and, most recently, her crawling.
Watching that baby is my favorite activity. She's as mesmerizing as a campfire, and one of the best hangs I know.
Now that I've gotten through cancer treatment, I'm starting to work with my office on a plan for easing back into my job. And it's creating some unexpected anxiety for me. My priorities have changed through this experience, and not just because of the cancer. As much as I love it, my job is no longer my #1 or #2 priority. And the only people to whom I want to be available 24/7 are my family.
I am also placing much more importance on my own health, something that I historically pushed to the back burner. I realize this is my only go-around in this life, and I want to make the most of it. I also want to be around to see my daughter have her own children, and to grow old with my husband. Being a workaholic is not conducive to such goals.
All of that being said, I also recognize that adult interaction is important to me, as is the reward of having a meaningful career. I also recognize the importance of my daughter having interaction with other little children, and getting the stimulation of an educational group environment.
So ... how do I find that balance of a healthy work life and a healthy home life ... of being working mommy? I know that it involves setting and holding boundaries, something with which I've always struggled. But the stakes are higher now, and I'm much more motivated.
I'm investigating the possibility of working part-time, and doing some of that work from home. Fortunately, I have a very supportive law firm, and folks who will do whatever they can to accommodate me in my new situation. We'll see how it goes. In the meantime, I'd love to hear your stories on how you managed going back to work after baby.
How do you do it?